The burden of life admin and what you can do about it

By Catherine Ann Reid, below, Founder & CEO, Doqit

Life admin. Personal paperwork. Life laundry. Whatever you call it, just hearing those words is enough to elicit exasperated sighs from many people today. Paying bills, filling out forms, sorting through paperwork and files – these tedious tasks have become an interminable source of stress. It feels like our lives are saturated with endless administrative duties, bureaucracy, and an avalanche of accounts and passwords to manage. Added to which, constantly evolving systems combined with major life events means the pile of tedious admin we have to handle just keeps growing.

So how exactly did we get to this place of feeling perpetually drowned under a colossal mountain of admin?

I found myself overwhelmed and wanted to understand the key factors that have contributed to the rise of soul-crushing life admin overload for so many people. These insights helped inform me when creating a solution to help people reduce their burden.

Increasing Bureaucracy

One of the main culprits behind the rise of life admin is the sheer volume of bureaucracy we now contend with daily. Governments, organisations, and businesses of all sizes have become increasingly reliant on legislation, procedural protocols, regulations, and policies to function. Forms must be filled out properly, documents filed correctly, rules followed to the letter… otherwise, the ‘computer says no’.

Many of us expected the digital revolution to help reduce much of this red tape, but instead it has only led to bureaucracy spreading through online spaces as well. Email inboxes overflowing, tedious forms to fill out, documents to sign, policy notifications to read, account updates to approve. And that’s on top of the reams of physical paperwork still being churned out. The hybrid life admin world is chaos!

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

As our personal lives expand, the administrative tasks required to manage everything inherently multiplies. Keeping up with bureaucratic changes in nearly every area – taxes, banking, insurance, pensions, utilities, subscriptions, and more is exhausting. Our personal responsibilities don’t remain static either, expanding as we buy homes, have families, change jobs and so on.

So Many Online Accounts and Passwords to Juggle

Once upon a time, take my Dad for example, an average person. He had a single bank account, one credit card, and paperwork relating to our home, his car, taxes, and insurances. That was it. All kept in a single lever arch file.

These days, the picture is very different. Online spaces have led to an explosion in the number of different accounts the average person needs to set up and manage.

We have logins for email, social media, shopping sites, streaming services, deliveries, travel services, utilities, loyalty programs, and more. It seems like every website now requires an account to use its services. And with each new account comes the tedious task of creating and remembering secure passwords.

Security experts rightly recommend creating unique, complex passwords for each account and frequently changing them. But that turns remembering passwords into an ongoing ordeal. Most resort to reusing simple passwords, while the more organized employ password managers and similar tools. Both approaches require their own set of admin tasks. Two-factor authentication added another layer of security – and another layer of admin in the form of codes.

Managing all these logins, passwords, and authentication methods can sometimes feel like a part time job in itself. But allowing any to lapse risks security breaches and that’s a whole different article!

Pensions

Saving for retirement has also grown increasingly cumbersome. Pension systems are complex, with different types of accounts, allowances, contribution limits, portability rules, and investment options. Many people today have multiple pension pots scattered between various providers, accrued from years spent working different jobs.

Consolidating these can be an administratively heavy process. And once retired, organising pension income across different streams with their individual quirks is another paperwork-laden chore. Moreover, pensions can require actively managing investments and moving funds into retirement savings vehicles.

For those still working, monitoring whether employers are contributing the proper amounts to pensions can be difficult without meticulous admin. Ensuring adequate retirement savings requires a continuous commitment to navigating bureaucratic pension complexities.

The Admin Tsunami of Owning or Renting a Home

Owning your own home is still, for many, considered a hallmark of personal success and financial stability; but it also plunges people into a blizzard of paperwork and admin. Mortgages, insurance, utilities, repairs, and home improvements – all of these generate endless streams of bills, invoices, contracts, warranties, and manuals.

Home insurance in particular often requires collating extensive documentation of valuable possessions. Stamp duty, council tax, and the likes add to the pile of bureaucratic chores. For thatched properties or homes using well water or septic tanks, managing and maintenance is critical but administratively heavy. Home renovations require extensive paperwork – permits, contracts, inspections, warranties – often which are then required as evidence for insurance.

And all this is just the lifespan of owning one property. Moving homes generates even more new admin – changing accounts and registrations, redirecting deliveries, updating records. Selling homes merges all the paperwork of buying and owning into one ultimate admin nightmare. Is it any wonder properties languish on the market?

Adulting Is Hard!

As we age into adulthood, a whole avalanche of new bureaucratic responsibilities fall onto our shoulders. Handling personal finances and taxes, medical accounts, insurance, retirement planning. It’s 2023, and these skills are still not being taught in schools; yet we all know require knowledge to navigate properly.

Organising documents around property, assets, wills, investments, trusts, and inheritance planning also takes discipline. Travel requires reservations, bookings, visas, licenses, and an alphabet soup of forms at every step. Significant life events like marriage, children, divorce, or death each bring their own administratively intensive processes.

Even choosing everyday services like banking, phones, internet, utilities, or media requires comparing plans across a multitude of providers. And once chosen, managing standing orders, direct debits, switching providers, contacting customer service – these essential tasks easily mushroom into time sinks for the busy modern adult. Is it any wonder many young people facing the reality of adult admin feel overwhelmed?

The Temptation of Subscribing

Once upon a time, shopping for services, media, or products was a discrete event. You made a purchase and received the item. Today, it feels like everything has moved to subscription models – services. goods, apps, media, deliveries, you name it. On demand access is the norm.

Streaming television, music, books, and movies have made cancellation easy. Subscription boxes for clothing, food, cosmetics, and more arrive regularly on our doorsteps. One-click purchases of anything under the sun can be delivered next day. Mobile apps have turned taxis, food delivery, house cleaning, and more into on-demand services.

This “subscription economy” offers convenience and variety. But with great choice comes great admin. Keeping track of dozens of subscription payments each month, managing auto-renewals, evaluating which subscriptions are worthwhile, and when to cancel to avoid charges takes time. Some companies intentionally make it difficult to quit subscriptions in the hope customers simply forget about them.

Subscription models also open the door to “shadow charges” – accounts you signed up for once but forgot about, costing you each month. Tracking these down and closing them adds to admin hassle. And companies entice subscribers to opt-in to as many notification channels as possible, flooding inboxes, phones, and homes with promotional material that needs sorted, managed, and often recycled.

Exhausting Endless Decisions

We are overwhelmed with choices. Every product, service, or experience now comes with dozens of options to select, customise, and tailor to our individual needs and wants. This explosion of choice applies to bureaucratic processes as well. Government and business want to know your preferences regarding notifications, privacy, communication channels, security, and more.

But these endless decisions around managing life admin are mentally draining. Contending with decision fatigue causes people to make passive or poor choices just to get paperwork out the way. Too exhausted to pore over pension statements, insurance policies, or terms of service, they default to whatever is quickest. But neglecting the details on admin tasks often leads to problems down the road.

Being overwhelmed also means fewer people proactively optimise or streamline accounts. You become less likely to hunt down savings, switch to better deals, file paperwork efficiently, or cut wasteful subscriptions. Instead, subscriptions automatically renew each month while pension funds languish in suboptimal allocations. Reactive rather than proactive admin can cost time, money, and peace of mind.

Perpetual Anxiety from Uncertainty

Finally, the ever-present burden of admin weighs on people’s minds and feeds anxiety. Filling out paperwork correctly, meeting deadlines, keeping accounts in order – failure to stay on top of it all can result in catastrophic consequences like eviction, penalties, lack of essential services, or even legal trouble. No wonder people lie awake at night fretting over whether they paid a bill or submitted a form on time.

There is always the nagging worry you’ve forgotten an important account somewhere, left money wasting in an old pension fund, or simply made some critical error on documents that will come back to haunt you. Cleaning up any problems caused by admin mistakes tends to require even more complex paperwork. And if problems go unnoticed, bigger hassles inevitably emerge.

This anxiety around properly handling admin doesn’t just cause emotional distress – it’s a significant time sink. In fact, research has shown that on average we are spending around 34 hours each month just trying to stay on top of it.

But What’s The Answer?

As said earlier, I found myself completely overwhelmed; driven by a combination of what the research confirmed. My tsunami had me drowning and when I couldn’t find a lifebuoy to save me, I knew something had to be done. That’s why we’ve created Doqit. Doqit exists to help mitigate the rising tide of day-to-day life admin overload for people and provide relief from needless stress and hassle.

How does it work? Doqit lets you:

  • Automate reminders for key deadlines, renewal dates, tasks, and appointments that you customise precisely to your needs. Never miss a payment, cancel too late, or be charged unnecessary fees again.
    • Gather all your critical documents, records, statements digitally in one searchable, secure location. No more scattered files or piles of paperwork. Extensive cloud storage leaves no important file behind.
    • Get on with your day knowing that you’re on top of, and in control of your life admin.

Life admin will likely always be a chore. Having Doqit help you streamline and automate routine tasks, prioritise important events, and giving you it all in one secure place at your fingertips can go quite some way reducing your time, unnecessary cost, and stress.

Because at the end of the day, admin should serve us rather than rule us. There are much more meaningful ways we should spending those 32 hours each month!

Sign up free for a 45-day free trial of Doqit here.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024